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Canadian ice flows where harp seals give birth A Desolate Poem on the Meaning of Life

Sometimes young things,
with trembling or with fear,
ask me:
“My master (or my dear),
do you know what is life?
Is it love?
Is it hate?
Is it peace or strife?”

“The Greeks called it zoe,
psyche, physis, bios . . .
Hegel spoke of it highly
in his early works.
In Nietzsche ‘life’ has many meanings
(He was rather careless
in his vocabulary.)
Dilthey . . .”

Docile note-takers,
they listen, they write down.
But there is scorn and irony
in their clear eyes.

That is why
I will write
what I feel
to be right
about life.
For life is many things.

“The blink of any eye, a speck of dust.
A cry of pain, a pang of lust.
A thrill of pleasure, a scream of delight.
A panting, a howling, a roaring, a bite.
A chill of fear, a sigh of bliss.
A caress on the shoulders, a humid kiss.
A fit of anger, a gust of zest.
A sense of calmness, a taste of rest.
A touch of evil, a hint of good.
A nosegay of flowers, a heap of soot.
A comedy of errors, a glimpse of truth.
An ocean of cruelty, an island of ruth.
A stroke of fortune, an evil spell.
A blessing, a torment, a heaven, a hell.”

Let me now summarize
the meaning of life,
and give it a name:

“A self-consuming flame
In vain.”

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